Saving money on groceries is a topic we have always been passionate about at The Dinner Daily. We are always looking for ways to help our members save at their store and eat healthy food at the same time.
Now, more than ever, paying attention to your food spending is critical. The cost of food has increased by a whopping 7% since last January and it does not look likely prices are going to come back down anytime soon. Of course, we don’t need statistics or economists to tell us we are spending more on food, we experience it each time we go to the store or order online. And yes we know controlling food spending is not always easy to do (it is in fact one of the main reasons I started The Dinner Daily) but with some organization and a plan, it is doable. So if you are also having sticker shock at the register (“I just spent how much on that?!?”), we have five tips to help you right now control your spending:
Saving Money on Your Groceries- 5 Tips:
1. Have a Plan (please don’t skip this step!):
There are no shortcuts here …saving money on groceries requires a plan. Having a well thought out meal plan in place for the week (along with an organized shopping list), before you hit the store is our #1 tip for getting through this spike in food prices. If you are in the habit of just “winging it” while food shopping, or doing daily trips to the store, you really need to rethink your strategy. I get this takes time, organization, and regular planning (not easy when you are busy) but if you are serious about keeping your food bills under control, you just cannot skip this step.
Heading to the grocery store (instore or online) without a plan will almost always result in overspending due to impulse buys, not buying the right quantities, and ultimately food waste. Also, when you enter your store with just a vague idea of what you need, it is much more likely you will be making a second or third trip back to the store during the week, leading to more overspending (see Tip #3 below).
It is just one of those universal truths… planning saves money every single time.
2. Leverage the Power of the Sales Flyer:
The store’s weekly sales flyer should be part of your weekly planning. Incorporating store specials into your plan can save you big time on your meals. Our research shows that planning meals around what is on special can result in savings of 20% to 25% every week. In other words, if you shopped the same list of ingredients when the items were no longer on sale, you may spend up to 25% more on your food. If you are shopping for a family, this can result in significant savings. There is a lot of savings power packed into that sales flyer!
If you need help with this (The Dinner Daily does Tips #1 and #2 for our members each week), you can always check out our free trial here.
3. Stop the Mid-Week Grocery Run (if you follow step #1 this should be easy):
Resist the urge to go back to the store during the week unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you run out of an essential, such as milk or bread, try to stop at a smaller convenience store for those items so you are not tempted to buy more stuff. If you forgot something on your list, try to go without it or substitute with another ingredient. Picking up a bit of this and that on your way to the dairy case can make that $4 gallon of milk turn into a $40 unintended spend. Ouch!
This tactic will not only help keep your food bills under control, but also save you time from avoiding multiple shopping trips during the week. And now, less trips to the store means less trips to the gas pump, further adding to the savings.
4. Take Advantage of Frozen:
Yes, we are recommending you embrace some frozen produce items to help you save money on food. Frozen vegetables are often far less expensive than fresh. I know you might be skeptical on whether this is a less healthy choice, but research tells us it is perfectly fine and in some cases, a better option. Also, if your meal plan calls for a casserole or a skillet meal, frozen veggies can work really well since the difference in taste and texture will not be as noticeable.
If you need more convincing, you can check out some more info here.
5. Track Your Spending:
Another key tactic in keeping your food bills in check: track your spending for one month. I know this might sound like drudgery but there are huge benefits in this step. It will help you understand how you are spending your money, visually highlight areas you are overspending or spending mindlessly, and most likely reinforce how important it is to have a plan.
You don’t need to use a spending tracker app or even an excel spreadsheet- a simple notebook kept on your kitchen counter will work just fine. Then, each week after you do your weekly grocery run, record what you spent. Also, note if you used a plan that week next to each amount. Include all other food related spending during the week too, such as take out, restaurant meals, and stops to pick up additional items. At the end of your week or on a set day, add up all your spending. How does it look? Was it more or less than you planned? For the weeks when you did have a plan, was your spending less?
This is a simple but very powerful step in saving money. When you can visually see your spending each week, and the impact all the smaller items have on your budget, it can be super motivating to get organized. Try it and see how it works for you. The only thing you have to lose is a tiny bit of time while the savings potential is huge.
At The Dinner Daily, eating healthy on a budget is something we think and talk about constantly. It is at the heart of what we do…helping busy families eat well for less. If you would to try our money saving meal planning solution for free, just click on the button below.